On Saturday morning, Pope Benedict met with bishops from the formerly communist country of Bulgaria, who he encouraged to be staunch witnesses to Christ in all areas of public life--particularly those where that influence is most needed.
The prelates, members of the Bulgarian Episcopal Conference, had just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his address, the Pope said that following individual meetings with each of the bishops, he was convinced that "the Catholic Church in Bulgaria is vibrant and wishes to offer its witness to Christ in the society in which she lives."
Despite being a small minority, the Pope said that "the Lord always knows how to compensate for any of our shortcomings and for the lack of means at our disposal.”
“What is important”, he said, “is not so much organizational efficiency as unshakeable faith in Christ, because it is Christ Who guides, upholds and sanctifies His Church, also through your indispensable ministry."
Benedict also encouraged the bishops’ ecclesiastical service alongside of their influential brethren in the Orthodox Church, and expressed hope that "the present good relations may develop further, to the advantage of the announcement of the Gospel of the Son of God."
He likewise asked the Bulgarian bishops to pass on "a cordial greeting" to Patriarch Maxim, head of the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria.
"It is necessary”, the Pope went on, “to continue the journey we have begun, intensifying prayer so as to bring forward the moment when we can all sit around the one Table and eat the one Bread of salvation."
He also suggested an "intense dialogue with the civil authorities on themes of common interest," and indicated that "the Catholic community, although a minority in the country, can offer generous witness to Christ's universal charity."
The Pope also pointed out that "Following the sad period of communist oppression, Catholics who persevered in their adherence to Christ with eager trust now feel the urgent need to consolidate their faith and to spread the Gospel in all areas of social life, especially where there is the clearest need for Christian announcement.”
“I am thinking,” he said for example, “of the severe drop in the birthrate, of the high percentage of abortions, of the fragility of many families and the problem of emigration.”
On this note, Pope Benedict expressed his joy “to learn that the Catholic Church in Bulgaria is strongly committed in the social field, so as to meet the needs of so many poor people. I encourage you to continue this journey at the service of the Bulgarian people, who are so dear to me."
The Holy Father particularly called on the prelates to be unafraid "to present young generations with the ideal of a total consecration to Christ," and asked them to continue "to give your communities appropriate structures for pastoral activity and Christian worship, also with the help of other Catholic Churches and organizations.”
“On this matter,” the Pope added, “I am particularly pleased to learn of the rebuilding of the Latin Cathedral Church of Sofia, dedicated to St. Joseph."